This continues our series of posts contemplating a less program/activity-driven approach to summer church camp. You can read the previous posts here, here, here and here.
So, what if you wanted to focus your week of camp entirely around inviting youth to experience various spiritual practices? They are called "practices" for a reason. It takes time and intentional effort, for example, to learn what it means to keep sabbath, to pray, to honor one's body, and to make these practices part of one's daily life. How about focusing your week of camp around one particular spiritual practice and really inviting youth to immerse themselves in experiencing it? One good place to go for resources is the Johnsonburg Presbyterian Camp website where you will find free curriculum specifically written for church camps focused on various spiritual practices (plus see examples of the camper journals they put together to give to the youth). And here and here you will find complete camp curriculum written by some of my Disciples of Christ colleagues focused on the practice of communion and hospitality.
If we really get creative about this, engaging youth in spiritual practices doesn't just have to happen during "family group" or worship or Bible study. At my camp, we often have a time set aside in the afternoon for "interest groups." This is time for youth to choose to play sports, do an art project, take a hike, etc. Though an attempt is often made to tie these activities into the week's theme (particularly the art projects) oftentimes they are simply fun or creative activities that we think the youth will enjoy. How about focusing these activities on spiritual disciplines: A hike focused on the practice of pilgrimage, a craft project centered on the theme of compassion, a creative writing activity focused on Lectio Divina, a sports activity focused on cooperation and nurture, a musical challenge focused on prayer, a nature activity focused on silence? How might such an approach help youth begin to see that we do not engage our spirituality and connect with God just when we are being "religious" but rather we can be aware of God all the time, in everything we do. If they can learn this at camp, maybe they will be more open to the possibility back home, experiencing God at work, while driving a car, at school when they are taking a test, even (heaven forbid!) at church!